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  • feedwordpress 08:01:53 on 2018/06/12 Permalink
    Tags: , earthquake, fire, , , , natural disaster, New Richmond, , ,   

    “Disasters are called natural, as if nature were the executioner and not the victim”*… 

     

    The United States is an enormous country, spanning mountains, deserts, forests, prairie, tundra, and more. This varied terrain is also home to many natural hazards spawned by air, water, fire, and forces beneath the Earth’s surface.

    Some of these threats are dramatic; the United States and its territories have the greatest number of active volcanoes of any country except Indonesia, as well as the most tornadoes. Other hazards, like heat waves, are less flashy but can still kill you.

    Different regions of the country face very different hazards. But which part of the United States is the most dangerous? It turns out there’s no simple answer, although the south does have a particularly generous share of hazards…

    See how the country’s natural menaces differ by geography at “Where in the United States is nature most likely to kill you?

    * Eduardo Galeano

    ###

    As we calculate our odds, we might recall that it was on this date in 1899 that New Richmond Tornado– an estimated F5 storm, formed in the early evening, and went on to tear a 45-mile long path of destruction through St. Croix, Polk and Barron counties in west-central Wisconsin, leaving 117 people dead, twice as many injured, and hundreds homeless.  The worst devastation wrought by the tornado was at the city of New Richmond, Wisconsin, which took a direct hit from the storm.  In all, more than $300,000 ($8,825,000 in today’s dollars) in damage was reported.  Still, it ranks as only the ninth deadliest tornado in United States history.

    The ruins of New Richmond Methodist Church after the tornado

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:17 on 2018/04/27 Permalink
    Tags: dark, fire, , , John Stow, night, , Survey of London, , William Foxley   

    “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”*… 

     

    As recently as a few decades ago in the Western world, stars dazzled humans with their brightness and the Milky Way could be seen spanning the far reaches of the heavens as night deepened into an unspeakable darkness. In the 21st century, such a scene is becoming a rarity across many parts of the globe as we light up the night like never before.

    Today our experience of the night differs significantly from that of our ancestors. Before they mastered fire, early humans lived roughly half their lives in the dark. The only night light they had came from the moon when skies were clear. Then, when humans began to gain some control over fire use (probably around 400,000 years ago), everything changed. From that point on, most people have had access to some form of “artificial” light, at least occasionally. Thus began our persistent efforts to light up the night. Even people who lived relatively recently—those with candles, oil lamps, and early electricity—were far more familiar with darkness than we are today. Their nocturnal world simply wasn’t as bright as ours.

    But what have we gained by illuminating the night? Has anything been lost in our efforts to banish darkness? Were people, and the world, better off when it was darker?…

    Dive into the diurnal at: “A history of what we do in the dark.”

    * Mary Oliver

    ###

    As we go dark, we might recall this item from John Stow‘s Survey of London (original spelling: A Survay of London), published in 1598:

    William Foxley slept in the tower 14 days & more without waking.

    In the yeare 1546. the 27 of April, being Tuesday in Easter weeke, William Foxley, Potmaker for the Mint in the tower of London, fell asleepe, and so continued sleeping, and could not be wakened, with pricking, cramping, or otherwise burning* whatsoeuer, till the first day of the tearme, which was full xiiii. dayes, and xv. nights, or more, for that Easter tearme beginneth not afore xvii. dayes after Easter. The cause of his thus sleeping could not be knowne, though the same were diligently searched after by the kings Phisitians, and other learned men: yea the king himselfe examining the said William Foxley, who was in all poynts found at his wakening to be as if hee had slept but one night. And he lived more then fortie yeares after in the sayde Tower, to wit, vntil the yeare of Christ, 1587, and then deceased on Wednesday in Easterweeke.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:57 on 2017/08/04 Permalink
    Tags: , fire, flame-thrower, Great Fire, , Spokane, ,   

    “Sometimes it’s better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness”*… 

     

    Forget pepper spray…

    A flame-thrower that can hurl a stream of fire half a metre long is being marketed in China to help women fend off unwanted advances.

    The device is being billed on shopping websites as a must-have “anti-pervert weapon” that can be discreetly carried in a ladies’ handbag.

    Some are shaped like a cigarette lighter and emit small flames, while others hurl fire for 50cm with temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees Celsius (3,300 Fahrenheit).

    The flame-throwers sell from about £10 to over £30 on e-commerce sites, and one vendor boasted to local media how they can “scald or even disfigure an attacker.”…

    Of course, in the U.S. an increasing number of women are apparently going directly to Smith and Wesson. More on the conflagratory choice at: “‘Anti-pervert’ flame-throwers for sale in China.”

    See also the Hello Kitty Taser.

    * Terry Pratchett,  Men at Arms: The Play

    ###

    As we wonder what that smoke coming from our purses could mean, we might recall that it was on this date in 1889 that the Great Fire of Spokane destroyed the city’s downtown.  The fire broke out at 6:00p, and the volunteer fire department responded promptly. But a malfunction at a pump station meant that there was no water pressure in the city, and thus, none for the firefighters to use.  After trying to starve the fire by razing buildings with dynamite, the firemen caught a break–  the winds died down, and the fire burned out of its own accord.  While all of Spokane’s center city was destroyed, only one person was killed.

    The fire in its earliest stage, before it spread

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:44 on 2015/01/15 Permalink
    Tags: Chabert, , , Dillinger, fire, , , ,   

    “Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It’s the most theatrically corrupt”*… 

     

    John Dillinger’s body on display in the Chicago City Morgue (No explanation is offered of the two women in bathing suits leaning up against the glass.)

     

    Even a casual observer of American history will no doubt recognize several of the names in Gangsters and Grifters, a new book of early 20th century crime photographs from the Chicago Tribune archives. John Dillinger (and his corpse) monopolizes a handful of pages. A smirking Al Capone makes a few courtroom appearances. But this isn’t another text seeking to glorify the Second City’s criminal past.

    Photo editors Erin Mystkowski, Marianne Mather, and Robin Daughtridge, who refer to themselves as “The Dames of the Chicago Tribune Photo Department,” made a conscious effort to offer a more holistic representation of the annals of Chicago’s notorious history. Through 125 thoughtfully curated photographs, juxtaposed next to the corresponding Tribune headlines, the somber realities of Chicago’s historical criminal activity become apparent…

    Tillie Klimek sits on the right in this photo, next to her cousin Nellie Stermer-Koulik. The two women were accused of using arsenic to poison 20 relatives and friends. Tillie was eventually sentenced to life in prison, where she died in 1936, while Stermer-Koulik was found not guilty.

     

    More images and their backstory at “Unrestricted Access to Images of Chicago’s Criminal History.”

    * Studs Terkel

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    As we toddle around town, we might recall that it was on this date in 1827 that M. Chabert, wearing an asbestos suit, entered a large oven carrying a steak; twelve minutes later, he emerged carrying the fully-cooked steak.  Harry Houdini’s account (and broader appreciation of Chabert, “the most interesting character in the history of fire-eating, fire-resistance, and poison eating”) is in his book Miracle Mongers and Their Methods.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:30 on 2014/03/31 Permalink
    Tags: , fire, guard labor, guards, , , , ,   

    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”*… 

     

    As income and wealth inequality has grown in the developed world, so have the ranks of security guards—for gated communities, upscale residential buildings, corporate offices, exclusive events, and more. That trend– more inequality, more guards– seems especially apparent here in the U.S.  We now employ as many private security guards as high school teachers — over one million of them, or nearly double their number in 1980.  And that’s just a small fraction of what we call “guard labor.”  In addition to private security guards, that includes police officers, members of the armed forces, prison and court officials, civilian employees of the military, and those producing weapons: a total of 5.2 million workers in 2011– a far larger number than we have of teachers at all levels.

    Samuel Bowles, a professor at the Santa Fe Institute, and Arjun Jayadev, of the University of Massachusetts- Boston, explore these findings in their Opinionator piece “One Nation Under Guard.”

    In America, growing inequality has been accompanied by a boom in gated communities and armies of doormen controlling access to upscale apartment buildings. We did not count the doormen, or those producing the gates, locks and security equipment. One could quibble about the numbers; we have elsewhere adopted a broader definition, including prisoners, work supervisors with disciplinary functions, and others.

    But however one totes up guard labor in the United States, there is a lot of it, and it seems to go along with economic inequality. States with high levels of income inequality — New York and Louisiana — employ twice as many security workers (as a fraction of their labor force) as less unequal states like Idaho and New Hampshire.

    When we look across advanced industrialized countries, we see the same pattern: the more inequality, the more guard labor. As the graph shows, the United States leads in both…

    Bowles and Javadev conclude by quoting an august Utilitarian…

    “It is lamentable to think,” wrote the philosopher John Stuart Mill, in 1848, “how a great proportion of all efforts and talents in the world are employed in merely neutralizing one another.” He went on to conclude, “It is the proper end of government to reduce this wretched waste to the smallest possible amount, by taking such measures as shall cause the energies now spent by mankind in injuring one another, or in protecting themselves from injury, to be turned to the legitimate employment of the human faculties.”

    This venerable call to beat swords into plowshares resonates still in America and beyond. Addressing unjust inequality would help make this possible.

    Read the whole piece here.  [TotH to The Society Pages]

    *”Who will watch the watchmen” (or literally, “who will guard the guards themselves?”)  Juvenal, Satires (VI, lines 347–8)

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    As we shore up our defenses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967, at the close of a show in Astoria (Finsbury Park, North London) that Jimi Hendrix first set fire to his guitar.  Hendrix was treated for minor burns later that night (but apparently got the technique down quickly, as subsequent “lightings” didn’t require medical follow-up).  The slightly scorched 1965 Fender Stratocaster was sold at auction in 2012 for £250,000 (about $400,00).

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